The Fuss Over ID

posted at 11:04 am on November 27, 2010 by Jazz Shaw

Bill King trots out another old favorite, conservative chestnut this week by once again suggesting that perhaps people who show up at the polls to vote should bring along some sort of identification. And, anticipating the normal progressive push-back, offers a suggestion to Democrats. Get over it.

[W]e are regularly required to produce identification for matters far more trivial than exercising our right to vote, such as cashing a check or using a credit card. So some reasonable requirement to produce proof of your identification at the poll hardly seems overly burdensome in the context of today’s society…

I would respectfully suggest to my Democratic friends that it is time to punt on this issue and get it behind us.

Bill’s assumption that Democrats would object – and precisely why they might – seems to have been summoned immediately into existence. Greg’s Opinion:

No thanks, Bill. You can respectfully ask me to give up as many rights as I’m warranted, but my answer won’t change…

The fact of the matter is that there’s a principle involved here. It’s called the right to vote. Increasing the number of impediments in front of that is not something I am willing to consider punting over. Regardless of polls, regardless of the fact that there are 99 GOP State Reps that their constituents can’t name. Regardless of anything. My position is clear: let eligible voters vote. It seems that’s not enough of a principle for Bill King.

On the one hand, both Bill and Greg start out agreeing on one point which muddles this entire discussion. Leaving all hyperbole and hyperventilating aside, there has probably not been any significant amount of voter fraud in sufficient quantity to alter the outcome of a state or congressional level election in living memory, to say nothing of a presidential race. Mobilizing that many people to act in concert without being apprehended seems unlikely in the extreme.

But that’s only if you’re talking about the efforts of one person or group spread out across a massive playing field. What about at the micro level? Plenty of state and county legislative elections frequently go into recounts and are decided by a margin of 100 votes or less. (They’re still counting two races in my county as this is being written.) Shenanigans in the election process at that level can have a profound effect, and if they happen often enough across the state and nation, even if not coming from one central command center, the outcome may become suspect.

But the idea of ID cards always sets off multiple firestorms. On the one hand, as Bill King notes, it’s a rather flagrantly partisan and shallow argument.

Of course, the debate over voter ID is completely disingenuous on both sides. Republicans speculate that their likely voters will have an easier time producing an ID than Democratic voters and thereby gain some infinitesimal electoral advantage. This, of course, is precisely the same reason Democrats oppose it. Neither side really gives two hoots and a holler about whether there is really any voter fraud going on or not, just whether the system (current or proposed) favors their side.

Oddly enough, some of the same Republicans and conservatives who like the idea of ID for voting are frequently the first to stand up and oppose the idea of a national ID card which could significantly assist in immigration and law enforcement efforts.

But let’s say we could get something like this organized. What would you need to make sure it was not only effective, but legal? Well, first of all, if you’re going to use such an ID for voting, it’s going to have to be free. (If it’s not and the government charges you a fee for it, that’s effectively a tax. This then opens up a line of argument that it’s a Poll Tax and it becomes constitutionally problematic.) And this means that it’s going to have to be paid for with tax revenue.

Could such an ID be pushed further? (On a strictly optional basis, of course.) Could travelers offer to go through a lengthy screening process such as one undertakes if they want a job with the government, and get themselves pre-approved for security concerns, helping out with those nasty TSA lines at the airport? Honestly, I don’t see the problem with it.

Then again, in total disregard for my more libertarian roots, I’m one of those strange ducks who doesn’t have a big problem with a national database of ID for everyone living in our borders, up to and including photographs, fingerprints, retinal scans and DNA. A healthy amount of suspicion of the government is one thing, but if you’re going to have a government and a law enforcement structure, it would be nice to have them actually be able to catch the real bad guys a bit more efficiently.

So what do you think? Yea or nay on ID requirements for voting? National ID cards if they’re not mandatory? Or shall we scrap them all, including drivers licenses, and put everyone on the honor system?


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That stupid comment, alone, should disqualify this moron from any further consideration.

therealfranklin on November 27, 2010 at 1:55 PM

+1.

This “Jazz Shaw” person has officially jumped the shark with this post, which is so full of fail it’s hard to find a place to start tearing it apart.

Rebar on November 27, 2010 at 3:52 PM

Well, first of all, if you’re going to use such an ID for voting, it’s going to have to be free. (If it’s not and the government charges you a fee for it, that’s effectively a tax. This then opens up a line of argument that it’s a Poll Tax and it becomes constitutionally problematic.) And this means that it’s going to have to be paid for with tax revenue.

Sorry, NO. That’s a red herring. Why do I need an ID to buy a gun then? I have the right to own one, correct?

The idea that poor people have no ID is ludicrous and is presented time and time again.

BierManVA on November 27, 2010 at 3:53 PM

P.S to above….

BTW, SCOTUS has ruled there is NO constitutional right to vote.

BierManVA on November 27, 2010 at 3:55 PM

What you have proved, crr6, is that voter fraud enforcement is rare.

philwynk on November 27, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Well, no. As I said, the Bush DOJ made it an enforcement priority and tried to crack down on it.

Flunked Logic 101, did you? I’m sorry, then let me explain, slowly so you can follow.

When you talk about enforcement, you’re providing evidence about enforcement, not about the act itself. In order to prove that voter fraud, itself, is rare, you have to find ways to prove that nobody tries it, or that it does not occur, not ways to count how many times people try to obtain convictions.

By analogy, you can’t produce a valid statistic about the number of murders by counting the number of murder convictions; there are almost 20 times more murders than there are convictions. This statistic is relatively solid because it’s comparatively easy to know when a murder has occurred.

You also can’t produce a valid statistic about the number of rapes by counting the number of rape convictions. There’s some debate about it, but nominally there seem to be about 20 times more rapes than there are convictions for rape. The debate occurs because it’s a lot harder with rape than with murder to know when a crime has occurred; lots of women are raped but never report it, and lots of women have sex that may or may not be rape depending on circumstances that are very difficult to ascertain.

By contrast to those two crimes, voter fraud is an order of magnitude more difficult to pin down, as there is usually no forensic evidence to point to to verify that a crime has occurred. This is why there are so few voter fraud cases, too; even when you can be pretty sure that the results are bogus, you usually don’t have evidence of who did what to alter the numbers, so there’s frequently no prosecution, let alone a conviction.

This is true even when those evil, evil Bushies try so, so hard to prosecute the cases that Democrats simply refused to try. Sure, they tried to prosecute those cases where they had enough evidence to charge someone; but, as with murder or rape only an order of magnitude worse, in most cases there’s no way to identify who to charge.

So, people who actually want to know the frequency of voter fraud never talk about how often it is prosecuted, just as those who want to know how often rape occurs never use prosecution statistics to set that number.

Nobody, that is, unless some crook wants to get away with rigging votes, and then, suddenly, the difficulty of prosecuting voter fraud becomes proof that the act never occurs. Voila! Instant excuse to stop looking for crooks! But, of course, it’s only crooks who try this, and dumb ones at that, because it’s so obviously absurd that nobody else would risk looking so foolish.

Categorize yourself, crr6.

philwynk on November 27, 2010 at 4:05 PM

By analogy, you can’t produce a valid statistic about the number of murders by counting the number of murder convictions;

Shazzam! Your analogy explains the current WH administration’s view of terrorists:

Since they haven’t convicted any terrorists, that means there aren’t any terrorists.

The liberal way of thinking is elegant…flawed, but elegant.

BobMbx on November 27, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Well, I live in probably the bluest of blue states Connecticut and we are required to present identification at the polls to vote.

What’s the fuss about?

Teafran on November 27, 2010 at 4:20 PM

BTW, SCOTUS has ruled there is NO constitutional right to vote.

BierManVA on November 27, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Um… perhaps you should reread whatever decision it is that you think you’re quoting. I’m not sure which decision it is, but I’ve read all the recent SCOTUS decisions regarding voting rights, and I recall no statement that would lead you to think that this represents their position. They did uphold the Voting Rights Act by a vote of 8-1, you know.

Are you thinking that they said the right is not absolute, but must be balanced against legitimate state interests?

philwynk on November 27, 2010 at 4:29 PM

Flunked Logic 101, did you? I’m sorry, then let me explain, slowly so you can follow.
philwynk on November 27, 2010 at 4:05 PM

Aw, the little wingnut is getting testy. How adorable.

I understand your point about convictions not accounting for all the crimes actually committed. But that’s not what you said. You said this:

What you have proved, crr6, is that voter fraud enforcement is rare.

philwynk on November 27, 2010 at 2:51 PM

So you didn’t say convictions don’t represent the number of crimes committed. You said enforcement itself is rare. Understand?

Of course, that’s completely moronic and it’s an entirely different point from the one you made in your second post. So now you’re backtracking.

Now that we’ve established that, we can move on to your back-up point which you’ve tried to make after your initial point was completely obliterated. That point appears to be that convictions don’t accurately represent the number of crimes committed.

Now in many cases (especially rape) that’s true, and it may be true that the actual number of crimes committed is many times the number of convictions. However, even if we assume that voter fraud was committed 10x more than the number of convictions under Bush’s DOJ (a very generous estimate for you), that still means there were only 860 instances of voter fraud out of 400 million votes cast. Of course, that’s still an infinitesimally small proportion of the number of votes cast, and nowhere near enough to sway an election given that those instances would be spread out over a number of elections.

But it’s worth pointing out that, while it may be difficult to prosecute voter fraud, it’s actually easier to do so than with a crime like rape. The reason rape is underreported is because there are generally only two witnesses (the perpetrator and the victim), and the victim is often to ashamed or frightened to report the crime. There’s no paper documentation of the crime (you don’t fill out a form and punch a ballot each time you have sex) and the entire crime is done covertly.

In contrast, with voting fraud, the entire voting process is heavily bureaucratized and documented, so that it’s not particularly difficult to discover fraud if you really make an effort. You don’t need “forensic evidence” to pin down voter fraud (LOL), you just need to match certain records. It’s really quite simple.

crr6 on November 27, 2010 at 4:33 PM

The idea that poor people have no ID is ludicrous and is presented time and time again.

BierManVA on November 27, 2010 at 3:53 PM

This actually came up in the Supreme Court test of Indiana’s voter ID law, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. The Court decided that since the state ID for non-driving residents was free, it could not be considered a burden on the voter to make them show one. On the contrary, it’s really no more burdensome to stand in line to obtain the ID than it is to stand in line to vote.

More to the point, most state welfare operations require a valid state ID in order to obtain welfare benefits. Somehow the poor manage to find a way to get that ID when their welfare check depends on it…

philwynk on November 27, 2010 at 4:44 PM

So you didn’t say convictions don’t represent the number of crimes committed. You said enforcement itself is rare. Understand?

I understand that you’re either really, really poor at argument, or that you’re consistently disingenuous. Either way, you really should be ashamed of your shoddy approach.

Your claim (it is you making a claim that needs to be proved, not me) is that since there are X number of cases of voter fraud brought to trial, therefore voter fraud is rare. You imply thereby that X, the number of voter fraud cases brought to trial, represents the actual number of instances of attempted voter fraud. This is hilariously wrong.

What I pointed out is that X cannot possibly represent the number of instances of voter fraud. To illustrate the point, I provided the examples of murder, where X convictions reliably represents 20X actual murders (which presumably means a great deal more than 20X ATTEMPTS at murder), and rape, where X convictions means some very fuzzy number possibly around 20X actual rapes (which presumably means a great deal more than 20X ATTEMPTS at rape.) And I pointed out that the relationship between the number of voter fraud cases and the number of actual attempts is far more difficult to determine than the multiplier for rape or murder. So I think it’s pretty obvious that your X cannot possibly even come close to representing the true number of instances of voter fraud.

So far, your only attempt at a meaningful reply is that it’s simple to ascertain that voter fraud has occurred simply by comparing records. This identifies only one type of fraud, actually, but we’ll go with it because you’re proving my point for me here: comparing records may verify that a vote was cast by somebody who’s not on the voter rolls, but it cannot produce a criminal to be prosecuted unless the fraudulent voter was an idiot and used his proper ID. If he didn’t (and nobody ever does), then there’s no way to figure out who to prosecute: no fingerprints, no way even to know which ballot was the fraudulent one (e.g., my perfectly germane comment about forensic evidence, at which you snickered like an ill-mannered 9-year-old). Since no prosecution is possible, we know voter fraud has occurred but the particular instance does not show up in your X.

Get it? No, I didn’t think so, but everybody else here does. It’s actually pretty obvious.

philwynk on November 27, 2010 at 5:17 PM

Wasn’t it just a few months ago that the Demmies were all good with requiring ID to get inside those town-hall meetups ???

/.

CaveatEmpty on November 27, 2010 at 5:29 PM

I like what some blogger proposed as a headline one of the previous times this came up: “VOTER ID PROPOSED: MINORITIES, DECEASED HARDEST HIT”. :)

JimC on November 27, 2010 at 5:49 PM

crr6 on November 27, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Anyone who can’t read can still get State help in filling out the forms. Right there in front of the certifying official and everything. Sorry, that is not a barrier to entry as States have had to contend with the illiterate for decades.

ajacksonian on November 27, 2010 at 6:51 PM

If it is such an “important” right, then we should be 100% sure that only the right people vote. Something as important as the vote should not be given away to foreign nationals, even if it costs a few that do not both to ensure their privilege by getting identification. It is a right, you have a right to go do it, no one said that it was effortless.

rgranger on November 27, 2010 at 7:22 PM

Late to the party, but I’m still pushing my idea of having your congressional district and voting precinct on your driver’s license and then you must present that when you go to vote.

Mirimichi on November 27, 2010 at 9:26 PM

GregsOpinion begs the question.

Since our whole system is based on the vote of the people, i.e. citizens, it would seem to be important to make sure that only live citizens vote and that each one votes only once. That requires reliable identification. The government should make every effort to give every eligible voter an ID at least as hard to counterfeit as our currency, but if people can’t be bothered to register themselves, why should we allow them to vote? I distrust registration by groups like ACORN or other non-governmental groups, and I think great harm is done when ignorant people act as proxies for others. I understand that politics is messy and that some people will always be dupes for demagogues and corrupt organizations, but that doesn’t mean we have to encourage it or make it easy for ineligible people to vote.

flataffect on November 27, 2010 at 9:49 PM

Enough with the hyperventilating over national IDs. It’s about time we had them, and, no matter how much you scream about it, it won’t infringe on your rights.

Count to 10 on November 27, 2010 at 3:46 PM

National IDs that do not infringe on our rights would provide no benefit to the “state” that the state IDs do not already provide.

Slowburn on November 27, 2010 at 11:24 PM

oops.

Enough with the hyperventilating over national IDs. It’s about time we had them, and, no matter how much you scream about it, it won’t infringe on your rights.

Count to 10 on November 27, 2010 at 3:46 PM

National IDs that do not infringe on our rights would provide no benefit to the “state” that the state IDs do not already provide.

Slowburn on November 27, 2010 at 11:24 PM

Slowburn on November 27, 2010 at 11:25 PM

How ’bout we put people’s pictures on their voter registration card and make them show that at the polls?

Big John on November 28, 2010 at 12:02 AM

there has probably not been any significant amount of voter fraud in sufficient quantity to alter the outcome of a state or congressional level election in living memory

You’re kidding here, right?

Let’s start with. . . Louisiana.

Jason Coleman on November 28, 2010 at 7:26 AM

there has probably not been any significant amount of voter fraud in sufficient quantity to alter the outcome of a state or congressional level election in living memory, to say nothing of a presidential race.

(insert annoying game show buzzer noise) Wrong, but thanks for playing, Jazz.

As noted by Jason Coleman, see Louisiana. Now, after that, check Washington State, specifically, the Gregoire/Rossi Gubernatorial race from last cycle. More specifically, King County. See if you can find some archives of a site named Sound Politics, read, and weep. Extensive documentation is presented.

Wind Rider on November 28, 2010 at 11:30 AM

So much for ID, check this out.
http://hermancain.com/news/press-opinion-071906.asp

mixplix on November 28, 2010 at 3:49 PM

In contrast, with voting fraud, the entire voting process is heavily bureaucratized and documented, so that it’s not particularly difficult to discover fraud if you really make an effort. You don’t need “forensic evidence” to pin down voter fraud (LOL), you just need to match certain records. It’s really quite simple.

crr6 on November 27, 2010 at 4:33 PM

Disagree. It’s one thing to notice that, for example, 100 votes came from an empty lot, and quite another to back out those votes and correct the results. In fact, I submit that, due to the secret ballot, it’s impossible to do the latter.

The easiest way to prevent this is to require those who want to vote to register, and to show some authoritative identification on election day. And if that authoritative identification is of such a type that it cannot be counterfeited, so much the better.

unclesmrgol on November 28, 2010 at 9:09 PM

The right to vote is exactly WHY we should be required to produce an ID to vote.

Legitimate voters are now having their votes cancelled out by the illegitimate.

Who’s to say an election hasn’t been won or lost because of fraudulent voters and why shouldn’t we prevent it from happening?

Well, first of all, if you’re going to use such an ID for voting, it’s going to have to be free.

Only for those who don’t already have some sort of ID (e.g. driver’s license). How many adults of voting age, who actually vote, have NO government issued ID? Less than 1%. Small expense to ensure legitimate elections.

NoDonkey on November 29, 2010 at 6:39 AM

Let us compare:

In order to indulge in a private vacation to a remote location without taking days to get there, I must present a photo ID issued by a recognized government agency, the name on which matches a ticket voucher. I must submit to having my possessions x-rayed and potentially searched in detail. I must submit to having my body x-rayed in High-Def or, refusing that, having my person searched by someone who is not a sworn peace officer. I must accept the possibility of a “random” strip search.

In order to help determine who should govern our land, I have to speak a name which appears on a list, and get threatened with expulsion from the polling place if I attempt to prove who I am with any form of identification.

I do not support a national ID card. It’s yet another violation of the 10th Amendment. However, perhaps now, while the iron is hot, it is time for the citizens to lobby their state legislatures for a useful law, and a simple one. Require proof of identification to vote. An identification card from that state; a utility bill with a copy of a processed payment check; a friend or relative with valid ID to affadavit the identity. It doesn’t have to be a restrictive thing, just common sense.

I loved this line from Coulter’s column last week about the absurdity of requiring flight crews to submit to searches:

We’re talking about the pilot. Is there anyone in the government who can tell us why the pilot doesn’t need a box-cutter to seize control of the airplane and kill everyone on it? You there, in the back — the skinny guy with the big ears behind the teleprompter: Wanna take a guess? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

Freelancer on November 29, 2010 at 8:56 AM

“Only for those who don’t already have some sort of ID (e.g. driver’s license). How many adults of voting age, who actually vote, have NO government issued ID? Less than 1%. Small expense to ensure legitimate elections.”

Not even that. You can get an ID-only card using the same process that you use to get a driver’s license. Pretty sure every state offers something like this.

I once favored a national ID card. Not any more. Government bureaucracies are incompetent when it comes to handling private information, and any such database will be easily abused, exploited, and hacked. Centralization just makes it easier for the bad guys. Just leave it to the states where there’s a mix of different systems to defeat and where the damage potential can be limited. We have 50 sets of checks-and-balances right there.

As for law enforcement, governments and agencies at various levels can already cross-reference and subpoena all sorts of databases to find information needed for criminal investigations. Inconvenient? Yes, in the same sense that having three branches of government is “inconvenient”. I’m really not interested in restructuring our relationship to the state to make it easier for the authorities to imprison its citizens. There’s a good reason why we call autocratic societies “police states”, you know.

GalosGann on November 29, 2010 at 2:39 PM

Late to the table, as usual…

It’s not the blanket right to vote, but the right of a legitimate and qualified voter to cast his ballot. Most felons can’t vote, illegals aren’t supposed to vote, etc. As others have said, it’s not supposed to be so easy a comatose person can do it, that’s not what the law says. And the integrity of the election is an important factor, not just that ‘the most people voted’. Democrats are good at muddying this.

I live in WA state, so the 2004 Rossi/Gregoire election just stank to high heaven, and Wind Rider is right; Sound Politics was right on top of it, with photos (if I recall), of adjusted ballot tally sheets, a big no no. My only brief pause before I supported Dino was the fact that with that kind of obvious fraud, he should have taken it to the SCOTUS, if necessary.

I grew up in NJ however, and there you have a machine with a little curtain that is drawn when you vote. My mom was a poll challenger, and when she got there one election day, she noticed my father had signed the register and voted. The only problem is that he had been dead for year. (I have a really unusual last name). She got a supervisor and pointed it out to this woman, who told her she really shouldn’t be making a big deal about it.

So I’m sick and tired of this BS. Now WA state has almost complete vote by mail which is total cr@p, because no ID is presented at all. The process is farther away from the eyes and ears of the people this way. Lets have precincts and legislative districts on driver’s licences and state ID cards and if you don’t have one, you need to cast your vote as a provisional ballot until verified.

linlithgow on December 1, 2010 at 2:06 PM

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